19 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – For the 5th day running, the ongoing face-off between petroleum products marketers and the government has practically crippled economic activities in Abuja, the federal capital, with many filling stations refusing to open for business.
This is in spite of assurances coming from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, that it has abundant stock of petroleum products to last for another forty-five days.
Ahead of the Eid el Fitri festivity and the envisaged heavy movement of people for the holidays, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC had tried to assure the public that it has stepped up fuel supply to the Federal Capital Territory and across the nation to meet up demands.
The government denounced the appearance of long fuel queues in the major cities of the country, noting that there was absolutely no reason for oil marketers to embark on strike over unpaid fuel imports.
It further warned Nigerians against panic buying, noting that it has abundant petroleum products to go round the country without any fear of shortage throughout the period of festivity.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, last Thursday called on the marketers to end their purported strike action and cooperate with the Federal government to ensure effective products distribution to all parts of the country especially during the festive season of Eid-el Kabir.
Alison-Madueke noted that the government was prepared to do everything in its power to ensure that Nigerians get products to Nigerians all over the country, even as she disclosed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiary, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) has more than 40 days stock of petroleum products at its disposal.
She explained that the observed panic-induced fuel queues in Abuja have nothing to do with shortage in supply of petroleum products and that marketers and private depot owners are being adequately supplied with products.
“As at today, the PPMC has stepped up supply of products to Abuja and environs. This situation will be sustained from now through the period of the festivities. I can assure you there is no shortage of PMS or any other petroleum product now or in the foreseeable future as the PPMC has a 45-day fuel sufficiency in strategic reserve,” Alison-Madueke stated.
The Minister said NNPC was working in concert with other relevant agencies to ensure that petroleum products get to the end users at approved prices.
Oil marketers have said the reason for the strike was the Federal Government’s failure to pay them for fuel imports, a claim which has been described by government officials as not accurate.
A statement issued by Paul Nwabuikwu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala described the marketers claim as baseless and inaccurate.
He explained that marketers with legitimate claims have been fully paid adding that
only ones yet to receive payments are those indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede Presidential
Committee which investigated fuel subsidy payments.
The statement noted that, “The claim by. The true position is that the Federal Government has been meeting its obligations to oil marketers in respect of all legitimate claims.
“For instance, between April and May 2012, Batches D/12 and E/12 involving 14 oil marketers with a claim of N17 billion were fully settled through the issuance of Sovereign Debt Notes and other relevant documentation.
“In addition, since the directive by the Coordinating Minister to the DMO to continue payments of all verified claims, N25.6 billion worth of claims have been fully settled with the issuance of Sovereign Debt Notes. In all, between April and August this year, in respect of 2012 PMS claims, Sovereign Debt.”
He added that Notes amounting to N42.666 billion have been issued to 31 oil marketers.
“However, the claims by marketers recommended for further investigation by the Aig-
Imoukhuede Presidential Committee have not been paid. Payments or sanctions to this category of marketers will be determined by the outcome of investigations.
The statement noted that, “Against this background, it is clear that the strike was instigated mainly by marketers who were indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee which investigated fuel subsidy payments.
“Their obvious intention is to blackmail the Federal Government in order to escape sanctions for the crimes they have committed. Nigerians should not be deceived by their antics.
“Such tactics will not succeed because the Federal Government is determined to ensure that
persons and organisations which did the wrong things do not get away with wrong actions and wrong behaviour.”